"Borders Between Memories"
18"x24" Pastel / Acrylics on Paper
Based on a photo by artist Steveboyyi Makubuya taken in Kampala, Uganda.
Donate to our project to support children living on the streets: https://www.gofundme.com/youth-outreach-in-kampala-uganda
Dream of Duluth: A Global Street Outreach Initiative
It's been one thing after another this year - ups and downs, highs and lows, life carrying me in all directions, spreading me too thin, commanding my focus, transforming my ideals... I lost and then rediscovered my faith, came to terms with what it means to forgive and the privileges that each day brings. I've felt both my age and my youth tugging back and forth .... having life experiences that maybe won't be relevant until another 10 years goes by .... and felt my mind expanding to a capacity that's uncomfortable and bears a lot of pressure. It's hard to pick up where I left off with art simply because so much has been happening!
Getting back to this piece, though, I'd like to think it will be the start of another series. I'm not known for ever completing a series, actually ... but I always try! The image is based off a photo that my friend and fellow artist Steven ("Steveboyyi") sent me from Uganda during his recent return to the streets of Kampala. Steven has a story that's beyond words, in all honesty, but you can read a rough summary of it here: http://pioneerproductions.blogspot.com/2017/01/like-breath-of-fresh-air-...
I haven't been myself for a long while and, since meeting him, I feel like I've regained a lot of consciousness and been inspired to do the work that I love again. I've come to understand the role of compassion and forgiveness in the world and in maintaining an adequate sense of reality. Just before we'd met, I wrote a poem that ended with "life's been without meaning since" .. so much was happening and I wasn't very present for any of it; I would wake up at night to holes in my vision that glowed in the borders between a dream state and consciousness. It seemed like every time I locked eyes with a stranger on the street or at the store, I was looking at a ghost or spirit, not so much the physical form. It always reminds me of my father's mental illness. I always wonder what makes my ghosts real and his, mere hallucinations.
After a few weeks feeling relatively distant, I started engaging in a riskier lifestyle. Not anything hardcore, but I was definitely intentional about the places and situations I put myself in. I wanted to be where something different could happen. I cut it out after a bit, but the pattern proceeded without me having much of a say ... things like getting robbed, cops smashing into my vehicle, literal signs falling from the sky and landing on said vehicle, power lines exploding, more miscellaneous street interactions, premonitions coming true ... all of that started and continued happening. A new wave of people and friends came into my life. Another transition. A hiccup in the universe triggering an avalanche of change. Etc.
After meeting Steven, I started up a series of a really difficult conversations, both with him and others in my life who were willing and open to the idea. I also work 8-hour shifts at a domestic violence shelter for indigenous women on and off throughout the week as part of my job, and suffering, resilience, forgiveness, compassion .. again, all these themes started to surface in conversations and in stories. I've been so moved by all the unnecessary trauma so many people face as part of their realities.
Everyone I've come across as reinforced something that I've always believed, though; a tragic story doesn't define the person who lives it, no matter how much they may believe that themselves.
With all these ideas in mind... with all these conversations, I started to think about art again. I spent all of March discovering new things about life and building the courage to live well. Steven went back to Uganda towards the end of the month, but we've kept in contact since and began developing a dream of his called "Dream of Duluth", a title that he proposed once and we just went with. As an orphan on the street, his dream was to visit America one day; when it happened, he ended up in Duluth where somehow fate brought us together and we were able to arrange his first ever art exhibition.
Dream of Duluth: A Global Street Outreach Initiative
We're both figuring out a way to use art (via teaching, via exhibiting, etc.) to bring attention to the reality plaguing children around the world who face homelessness and abandonment. There is so much suffering and much of it has to do with the fact that the so-called first world exploits the majority world (or "third world", though this name makes no sense). I see it in my work and on the streets. People go without identities and without the validation that they deserve anything more in life than what they already have, which is oftentimes very little.
Tying this back to the project, of a population of roughly 39 million in Uganda, nearly 50% are children between the ages of 0-14, and 2.5 million are orphans living on the street or in shelters with minimal resources. Steven knows better than anyone else what those kids are going through, having endured it himself; my hope is that, through Dream of Duluth, we can attain a mutual goal of bringing a recognition of humanity to these children so they can understand their value, while, at the same time, giving him something to sustain his own life around. We've both endured a lot of hardship in our lifetimes and our stories don't necessarily compare ... but I'm always learning that it's impossible to measure one person's suffering against another's anyway.
To get a sense for what Dream of Duluth is as we proceed, you can follow our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dreamofduluth/
Basically, this piece will be the first of many that depict children impacted by the project. We haven't gotten the name of this young boy yet but are hoping to reconnect with him soon, as I asked Steven to start keeping track of the kids' names that he works with so we're properly connecting with them and reinforcing their existence. I was drawn to this image because of the hands on his shoulders - many of the images he's been sending me feature more hands than faces. Hands reaching out for help, hands linked, hands at rest, hands waving ... all these gestures that give an indication of the situations taking place.
Without saying much more, I want to do more with my art and I'm hoping this process opens the doors to doing just that. I am angry about a lot of things happening in the world right now and working through it as best I can.
Half of what I already want to say is written in Kahlil Gibran's book, The Prophet, which you can access online and read for yourself: http://www.katsandogz.com/gibran.html